Iraqi leaders called for unity as they met to try to end eight months of political deadlock and speed up the formation of a new government.
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and former Premier Ayad Allawi, whose blocs are competing to be recognized as the winner of the March 7 elections, joined Kurdish and Sunni Muslim leaders in Erbil, capital of the northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region. The session was aired live by state-sponsored al-Iraqiyah television.
Today’s meeting was arranged by Massoud Barzani, president of Kurdistan, who called it “a historic moment.” The talks precede the convening of a new legislature in Baghdad on Nov. 11. A political vacuum caused by the inconclusive poll has coincided with a rise in violence, prompting world and regional leaders to call for the rapid creation of an administration able to unify the country.
“We have to accept the opinions of the others, and understand each other, and this is the only way” to move forward, said Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Shiite Muslim-led Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council. Al-Hakim’s party merged with al- Maliki’s Shiite State of Law alliance after the elections.
Allawi’s al-Iraqiyah bloc, backed by Sunni and secular voters, won 91 seats in March compared with the 89 secured by al-Maliki’s alliance. Both have been trying to muster the 163 seats needed for a governing coalition in the 325-member parliament.
‘A Real Role’
“The new government has to be a partnership government, all the political parties have to have a real role in the next government,” said Ayad al-Samaraie, a Sunni leader.
Adel Abdel Mahdi, one of two vice presidents and a member of al-Hakim’s party, said the new government must not exclude anyone. “This meeting is an example of positive things that are happening in Iraq,” he told the other leaders.
The leaders will resume their meeting tomorrow in Baghdad.
Iraq’s Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 24 that lawmakers must convene again to elect a speaker and his deputies and formally close an initial session that was held June 14 and lasted less than 20 minutes.
Once a speaker and deputies are elected, the constitution gives lawmakers 30 days to elect a president. The new president then has 15 days to ask the largest bloc in parliament to choose a prime minister, who has 30 days to form a Cabinet.
Seven Iranian visitors were killed and 38 people wounded in a car bombing the southern city of Karbala today, al-Iraqiyah reported. Also in the south, six people were killed and 25 injured when a car bomb exploded outside a restaurant in the center of the oil hub of Basra, police said.
On Nov. 2, at least 40 people died when multiple bombs exploded across Baghdad, and on Oct. 31, a siege by al-Qaeda gunmen on a church in the city led to the deaths of 58 people.
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